As companies scrambled to protect employees with travel restrictions and remote work arrangements in the advent of COVID-19, in person meetings became another casualty of the pandemic. At Affinity Strategies, we understood the challenges and met them head on by pivoting to virtual meetings within one week of the outbreak. As we all know, for most associations, the annual meeting is an opportunity to connect with friends and fellow members so the thought of a virtual meeting can sometimes be met with resistance. Being prepared and knowledgeable about virtual meetings will help your committee feel more comfortable with the change.
Since March, our team has successfully executed many virtual annual meetings, webinars, and other virtual social events. While this has been a major change for our clients and business, the results have been excellent and a new and very exciting option for any association moving forward. Our experience has taught us some valuable information about the way forward and we are pleased to share the basics with you today. Interested in learning more? Contact Regina Legoo, Director, Meetings and Education at Affinity Strategies today!
Here are a few steps to make sure your virtual meetings are successful, engaging and fun:
Stick to meeting basics. During the initial conversation, set clear objectives, and manage expectations. For instance, make sure your committee understands exactly how the meeting will look to the attendee. Will you use pre-recorded audio presentations, live Q&A, panel discussions, etc.
Clearly outline next steps. Create a timeline that clearly outlines due dates and accountabilities. Determine the agenda as soon into the process as possible.
Establish presenter & moderator communication. Let your presenters and moderators know that you are pivoting to a virtual meeting as soon as the decision is made. Send detailed instructions explaining how to pre-record their presentation. Let them know your expectations and respect their time.
Minimize presentation length. The only thing worse than a long presentation in person is a long presentation during a virtual meeting. Panel discussions should be discussions and Q&A should be informative.
Test the technology ahead of time. Nothing kills momentum at the start of a meeting like a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work, etc. Prior to a virtual meeting, all presenters and moderators should test the technology and make sure they are comfortable with the major features. Schedule a rehearsal to familiarize the presenters with the virtual environment and remember, you should be able to answer basic technical questions as well.
Don’t forget the social aspect: There are many ways to engage your attendees with social activities. If your budget allows, send hats or t-shirts to the attendees and ask them to send selfies back. The selfies can be posted during break times. Host a virtual cocktail hour or wine pairing. Play Jeopardy and ask Sponsors to provide prizes.
And speaking of Sponsors: A virtual meeting actually provides more “face” time with attendees. You can offer symposiums or workshops during lunch, ask them for a 2-minute video to loop before, during breaks and after the meeting. Link their logos to your virtual page. Remind them of the cost effectiveness of not having the travel expense.
Remember: To make virtual meetings work, you will need to adjust how your team conducts them. But a small investment in preparedness now will have a huge impact on your meeting.